China launches against online video games: those under 18 will only be able to play three hours a week

China launches against online video games

When the Government of China labeled video games a little over a week ago as “the digital opium” of the 21st century, companies in the sector began to tremble on the stock market. And this Monday, the warnings have finally turned into drastic measures against the sector. From this week, those under 18 will only be able to play online one hour a day on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., in addition to holidays. A restriction that seeks to stifle a hobby that the Xi Jinping Executive considers “dangerous for the country’s economy.”

Today’s announcement is a further step in the restrictions that already existed, which limited online multiplayer games to 1.5 hours a day for those under 18. Since until 2015 consoles were prohibited in the Asian giant and that the games published by the three big western companies -Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft– are highly regulated, online gambling accounts for the second-largest share of the pie, only behind mobile games.

The problem for the Government is that, if countries like the US are already detecting an increase in the number of young people leaving the labor market or opting for part-time jobs to have more hours to play, the risk is even higher in a country where the one that dominates online multiplayer games, much more complex, attractive and absorbing than a single-player console game. And Xi wants to cut his losses with this sector.

Even so, the existing restrictions for minors mean that the effects of this measure will not be very strong. “Tencent, NetEase and other companies in the industry may experience just a modest hit,” according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Kanterman. “Players under the age of 16 already accounted for only 2.6% of Tencent’s gross domestic gaming spending in the second quarter.” Speaking to Bloomberg, Daniel Ahmad, an analyst at Niko Partners, confirmed his expectations: “It is not going to affect too much spending by minors, which we noticed was already extremely low,” he said.

Even so, the danger comes because of what it can mean in the long term, and because of the rest of the measures that will be applied to the rest of the players, such as requiring them to register their real name, restricting the payments that can be requested within a game, create a national system to monitor video game addiction, and collaborate with schools to discourage this hobby.

In a statement, the government boasted of stopping the “disorderly expansion of some platform companies” and promised “more transparency and predictability” when implementing measures against the sector. At the moment, the announcement has caused drops of 8% in NetEase, 2% in Tencent or 6% in Kingsoft.